Possum Magic


Written by Mem Fox, Illustrated by Julie Vivas

Omnibus Books, 1983

Awards:  Ethel Turner Prize for young people’s literature (1984), Canberra’s Own Outstanding List:  Picture Book Award (1994) 

The plot in a nutshell:  Grandma Poss uses magic to make Hush invisible (to keep her safe), but when Hush wants to be seen again, Grandma has to travel all of Australia in search of a cure.

Of course, any books about possums are going to get their time in the spotlight here at the Possum’s Bookshelf.  This particular one is about Australian possums, which are much cuter and cuddlier than their American counterparts, and features many of Australia’s other fascinating indigenous species as well.  Author Mem Fox’s love for her native country truly comes through in every page of this story.

Poor invisible Hush...don't you get the idea she's waving frantically in an effort to make herself seen?

Poor invisible Hush…don’t you get the idea she’s waving frantically in an effort to make herself seen?

Customarily, a book’s publisher (and not the author) chooses the artist for a picture book, but Ms. Fox was unaware of that custom and included pictures from artist Julie Vivas with the book when it was submitted for publication.  Fortunately for her readers, Omnibus Books allowed Ms. Vivas to remain as the illustrator.  Her artwork here is  just gorgeous, with soft watercolor tones and fine detailed lines.

In order to make Hush visible again, Grandma Poss and Hush journey through a number of Australia’s cities, including Adelaide, Brisbane, Sydney and Perth.  They also eat quite a few distinctly Australian foods (including the infamous vegemite sandwich) along the way.  Included in the back of the book is a map of Australia and a description of many of the foods mentioned.  If you would like to try your hand at creating some of these Australian foods in your own kitchen, Ms. Fox has some recipes on her website.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that it may be safer to keep yourself hidden away, but you can only really live life to its fullest by openly being who you really are.


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